At least not the way you have been led to believe they do. When I was first prescribed Prozac, I was told by my psychiatrist that I had a genetic predisposition to depression. It was purely a chemical deficiency in my brain. Seratonin is the neurotransmitter that promotes positive feelings and my brain simply didn't make enough of it. So, following this logic, the drug wasn't changing anything about me; it was simply supplying a chemical I wasn't capable of making on my own. If you are taking Prozac, or Paxil, or Effexor, or any of a host of mood altering drugs, you've probably been told a version of this story and bought it hook, line, and sinker. But it isn't true. Its actually been disproven several times by the very scientists who used the theory to market antidepressant medications. You can read the nitty gritty in the book "The Emperor's New Drugs" if you want to know, but I don't want to dwell there now.
I've said before that I felt that Prozac saved my life back then, because I took it, and my depression improved. That means the doctors were right, right? wrong. The chart above depicts the findings of a huge meta-analysis performed by Irving Kirsch Ph.D. of the drug companies' own results from the clinical trials they used to gain FDA approval for their drugs. Based on their own data, both antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy produce a significant improvement compared to doing nothing at all. That is well documented. What came as a surprise is that 75% of the drug improvement was actually placebo effect. In other words, the Drug was only 25% more effective than the placebo. This was not an isolated study. This was the compound result of 3000 studies done by the drug companies themselves. When results were sifted further by omitting patients who "broke blind" during their trial, the difference between drug and placebo is even less. (Breaking blind means that the patients in the placebo group figured out that they were receiving the placebo due to the lack of side effects. Since they determined that they weren't receiving the active drug, the placebo effect was eliminated.) Their final conclusion is that drugs are 17% more effective than placebo for those with the most severe depression. For those with mild to moderate depression, there is no discernable difference.
Back to Prozac and the placebo effect, it turns out that Lilly (the manufacturer) knew all along. In the official Summary of Product Characteristics for Prozac, it states that "in the fixed dose studies of patients with major depression, there is a flat dose response curve, providing no suggestion of advantage in terms of efficacy for using higher than the recommended doses" (more is not better). But in the very same document, they make a recommendation that if patients do not respond to the 20mg dose, doctors may increase the dosage gradually up to 60mg per day. Why would they recommend such a thing? Keep reading.
In a separate study reported by Otto Benkert at the University of Mainz, Depressed patients who failed to respond to antidepressant medication were given an increased dosage of the drug, following which 72% of them improved significantly by showing at least a 50% reduction in symptoms of depression. The catch is that the dose had only been increased for half the subjects. The others only thought the dose had been increased; in fact it had not. Yet the response rate was the same 72% in both groups. So a patient whose dose of the drug is increased may indeed show more improvement, but this effect may be due to the patient's knowledge that the dose has been increased, rather than to the chemical effect of the medication. In other words, doctors are advised to increase the dose (and the likelihood of troubling side effects) as a means of strengthening the placebo effect.
I hope you are disturbed. Very disturbed. Doctors, Psychiatrists, and medical journals were all shocked by the meta-analysis. Guess who wasn't surprised at all? The drug companies. They were fully aware of the relatively small difference between the placebo and the drug. The "miracle" of anti-depressant medication was one of the most successful marketing hoax's of modern medicine. Who perpetrated the hoax? The pharmaceutical companies were not alone. They were aided and encouraged by none other than the FDA. The FDA receives 40% of its funding from fees charged to pharmaceutical companies to approve their drugs. If the FDA keeps approving drugs, the drug companies keep inventing new ones and paying fees and everyone is happy. It seems like a victimless crime, right? Unless you consider the thousands of people (including myself) who have suffered needlessly with side effects and the billions of dollars spent in treatment and prescriptions with little to no value. I highly recommend that you purchase the book and read the whole thing so you can join me in educating the world.
If you are struggling with depression and you need tools that can help, contact me!
If you are ready to get off the prescription antidepressant side-effect roller-coaster, be sure to seek the support of a competent medical professional who is knowledgable about alternatives and supportive of your decision. The withdrawal symptoms of the drugs (unlike the therapeutic benefits) are quite real. They generally involve dizziness, sweating, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, homicidal thoughts, racing heart, and a host of other ugly things. But they are not permanent and there is another way.
Quality supplementation and CPTG Essential Oils have provided real benefits for our family and so many others. Here are the products that are most helpful for supporting stable, healthy mood and energy. The tools that I have found most useful are a grounding blend, an invigorating blend, an uplifting blend, and a calming blend. You can learn more about specific oils and purchase essential oils on this website.